07 December 2010

Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards service is warning residents about scam mail which can cost victims thousands of pounds.

Trading standards is issuing this warning after becoming aware of an incident in the Moulton area where a woman was bombarded with two sacks worth of scam mail asking her to pay money to a variety of organisations and causes.

Unfortunately, scams like these are not uncommon. The scammers try to make the letters look like they are important documents, hoping to trick the recipient into sending them money or disclose personal information about themselves or family members.

These types of scams are often time sensitive, putting pressure on their targets to reply quickly. Once someone replies, their details can be added to a list of potential scam targets which can be sold on to other criminals to use. People can be tricked into a continuing cycle of receiving letters and phone calls and sending money.

Scammers will try anything to get people to send them money. For example:

  • You have won a lottery, sweepstake or competition but you have to send money to claim your prize.
  • Money you have won is being held in a holding company but you have to pay to access it.
  • Someone has left an inheritance, but you have to send money to claim it.
  • A clairvoyant can stop bad luck or direct good luck if you pay them money.
  • There is a secret deal which will make you rich but you have to send money to take part.

Scammers also send authentic looking scam mail that looks as if it has come from a bank or building society asking for personal information or cash.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for customers and communities said: “Imagine getting bombarded with scam letters every day.

“You might think that some of these letters are real and the prizes and offers they include are genuine so it’s possible that you could be persuaded to send some money.

“This is a despicable scam where often the most vulnerable people are targeted and can end up paying out thousands of pounds. Our message is very clear – do not respond to these letters and do not send any money. No genuine lottery or competition would ask you to buy goods or send money to claim your prize.

”Anyone who has concerns about a scam can contact trading standards for advice by telephoning Consumer Direct on 08454 040506. People can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 for support or to report a scam.”

For more advice and information about these sorts of scams and the impact they can have on people, visit www.thinkjessica.com – the website for the Think Jessica campaign, supported by the Trading Standards Institute.